'Safety reasons'

Israeli speaker disinvited from conference

"The organisers received numerous emails about Prof Moshe's attendance at the conference, some of which were quite threatening and of a serious nature," says ANZMHA CEO Sam Stewart.

Dr Moshe Farchi speaking in Melbourne last week. Photo: Zionism Victoria
Dr Moshe Farchi speaking in Melbourne last week. Photo: Zionism Victoria

The removal of an Israeli speaker from a conference on the Gold Coast has sparked an Australia-wide uproar.

Dr Moshe Farchi – a world-renowned expert on trauma and mental health, who is a reserve Lt Col in the IDF’s Home Command, where he’s a senior mental health officer – was disinvited from the Frontline Mental Health Conference, organized by the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association (ANZMHA), just days before his scheduled keynote address this week.

The decision was made due to pressure from pro-Palestinian activists.

ANZMHA CEO Sam Stewart said the decision was due to safety reasons. “The organisers received numerous emails about Prof Moshe’s attendance at the conference, some of which were quite threatening and of a serious nature,” he said.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler urged ANZMHA to apologise and warned against the perpetuation of intimidation tactics.

“Let’s be clear, Dr Farchi wasn’t cancelled because of anything he has said or done. He was cancelled because of the threat of violence of a bigoted few,” he said.

He said there’s a sad irony that a mental health organisation would give in to bullying tactics.

“Surely these mental health experts realise that refusing to stand up to bullying results in more bullying. With this act, the ANZMHA has all but guaranteed that more intimidation and bullying will occur,” he said.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said conference management “abetted the discriminatory intent of a small number of pro-Palestinian activists determined to target any and all Israelis for exclusion”.

“[They] gave these activists exactly what they wanted. It was especially egregious and indefensible that this decision was taken after Dr Farchi had already travelled to Australia to attend the conference,” he said.

Farchi spoke at two events in Melbourne last week organised by Zionism Victoria, one for members of the Jewish community and one for mental health professionals.

Zionism Victoria executive director Zeddy Lawrence said it was “a travesty” that more mental health professionals have been prevented from hearing from him.

He said this is an outrageous and shameful way to treat an internationally renowned specialist. “There is no excuse for kowtowing to the boycott bullies” he said.

Robert Gregory, CEO of the Australian Jewish Association (AJA), which first publicised the disinvitation, called the incident a stain on Australia’s reputation and reminiscent of Nazi boycotts of Jewish academics. He also called on the Queensland government to explain its continued involvement with the conference.

“Would they sit by if an Indigenous person, gay person, or member of any other minority was excluded from a conference they were involved with?” he asked.

Politicians also expressed dismay, with Liberal Senator Dave Sharma labelling it as shameful and appalling. “It seems the conference organisers have succumbed to political pressure to boycott or deplatform Dr Farchi, not for any objectionable views that he holds, but rather solely for the fact that he is Israeli,” Sharma said.

“Academic exchange and discourse is meant to provide a free platform for the sharing of ideas and expertise, and we all have a collective responsibility to stand up for such values.”

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